Etiko, Outland Denim and Joyya boycott the 2022 Ethical Fashion Guide

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Outland Denim founder James Bartle was one of many brands to boycott the 2022 Ethical Fashion Guide. Source: Inside Retail.

Each year, Melbourne-based fair-trade label Etiko receives the highest score in Australia’s annual Ethical Fashion Guide – a dream come true for the growing number of brands that pride themselves on leaving a lighter footprint on Earth.

But this year, along with fellow ethical brands Outland Denim and Joyya, Etiko sensationally announced that it would boycott the guide for the first time in nearly 10 years since Baptist World Aid began assessing brands on their standards. sustainability and human rights.

The Guide to ethical fashion 2022which evaluated 581 brands across 120 fashion companies, looked at living wages, forced labor and human rights, and the origin of raw materials and sustainable fibers, to rank the brands out of 100.

The report revealed that only 10% of all fashion brands pay a living wage while none of the shoe companies, including Birkenstock, Wittner, Nike, Nine West, Keds and Easy Steps, paid a living wage at n any stage of their supply chain.

But Etiko founder and director Nick Savaidis says the guide, which is the product of around 10 months of investigation, uses a flawed rating system that gives some fashion brands a pass while they should receive a fail.

“If a brand does not pay a living wage to textile workers and pay cotton growers a fair price – then they shouldn’t be given a passing grade,” Savaidis said.

“More weight should be given to paying a living wage for textile workers and farmers who grow and process raw materials.”

Savaidis founded Etiko (which comes from the Greek word for ethics) in 2005 to advocate for positive social and environmental change. He says Etiko was the first Fairtrade fashion brand in the southern hemisphere and a founding affiliate of the Australasian Fairtrade movement.

Savaidis welcomed the Ethical Fashion Guide’s new percentage system (previous years used the AF scale commonly seen in the classroom), saying “the historic grading system praised brands that did very little”.

Outland Denim Managing Director and Founder James Bartle agreed the new percentage system was a step in the right direction as the guide would “often be misleading by giving reputable operating brands a good score”.

This is actually the second year in a row that Bartle has publicly criticized the report – last year he filmed a damning Instagram video where he argued that a large number of brands that received high ratings were “not responding”. basic human rights needs”. [paying] a living wage”.

This year, Bartle says he still has concerns.

“We are also concerned that it is still possible for brands to be in the top (blue) tier overall, even if their ‘Supplier Relations and Human Rights’ and ‘Worker Empowerment’ scores are less than 50%,” Bartle continued.

“In fact, it is always possible that a brand which obtained an overall score of 48/100 could be in the top tier. We think it would be clearer if the top tier consisted of brands that scored between 80 and 100, rather than brands that scored in the top 20% of all brands surveyed. »

The 2022 edition gave a fairly low average score of 29 out of 100 (the best score was 86) and sorted all marks into one of five colors to indicate where they scored in the group, otherwise known as a curve in Bell.

The report works, according to Baptist World Aid

But Sarah Knop, corporate advocacy manager for Baptist World Aid, says she is maintaining the guide’s reporting system, which has evolved over the past decade to “better respect workers and protect the environment”.

“This year’s report is based on the same core robust research methodology, but with a greater focus on overall scores out of 100, instead of the previous A+ to F grading system, resulting in a more transparent assessment of each brand’s progress and performance,” says Knop.

She goes on to say that the change-making power of the guide can be seen in the progress made by regular participants. The average score of brands included over the past two years, for example, has increased from 32.5/100 in 2021 to 34.85/100 in 2022.

Companies included in the report for the first time this year, however, performed much lower, with an average score of just 9.7/100.

“There is more demand than ever for details about fashion company supply chains, which is why we urge all brands to fight for transparency and for global citizens to leverage their power to influence change by using this year’s report and the online Brand Research Tool to make more ethical decisions,” Knop said.

“Animal products are harmful”

Savaidis says the methodology could go much further to ensure the report lives up to its name. For example, Etiko is an all-vegan brand and Savaidis argues that excluding the impact of fashion brands on animals is a glaring oversight.

“I don’t believe that a brand that sells a majority of clothing made from plastic-based textiles, like polyester, should get a passing grade in the environmental score – they’re contributing to an environmental disaster,” he said. he declared.

“The same goes for brands that use animal products. Ethical fashion should be holistic and aim to cause minimal harm to people, the planet and the animals that reside there.

One thing everyone can agree on, however, is that the report was a damning insight into the fashion industry’s huge footprint on the environment and on vulnerable workers up the supply chain. supply.

“With an average rating of just 29 out of 100, the report gives fashion buyers, investors and industry leaders sobering,” Knop said.

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